Bicarb to the rescue

This magic ingredient has scores of extraordinary uses about which you may have had no clue - until now

Rescue Remedy 1 Clean your produce
You can't be too careful when it comes to food handling and preparation. Wash fruit and vegetables in a pot of cold water with 2-3 tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda and voila, it will remove some of the impurities tap water leaves behind. Alternatively, put a small amount of bicarbonate of soda on a wet sponge or vegetable brush and scrub your produce. Give everything a thorough rinsing before serving.

RR2 Make your own dishwashing detergent
The dishwasher is fully loaded when you discover you're out of your usual powdered dishwashing detergent. What do you do? Make your own by combining two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda with two tablespoons of borax. You may be so pleased with the results you'll switch for good.

RR3 Remove crayon marks from walls
Has a small child redecorated your walls or wallpaper with some original artworks in crayon? Don't lose your cool, just grab a damp rag, dip it in some bicarbonate of soda and lightly scrub the marks. They should come off with a minimum of effort.

RR4 Deodorise your rubbish bin
If something smells off in your kitchen, it's probably emanating from your bin. Some smells linger even after you dispose of the offending bin liner, so make sure you give your bin an occasional cleaning with a wet paper towel dipped in bicarbonate of soda (wear an old pair of rubber gloves for this job). Rinse the bin out with a damp sponge, then let it dry before inserting a new bag. You can also ward off bad smells by sprinkling a bit of bicarbonate of soda into the bottom of the bin before inserting the new bag.

RR5 Douse that fire
Did you know that bicarbonate of soda is the main ingredient in many commercial fire extinguishers? You too can use it straight out of the box to extinguish small fires throughout your home. For quick access, keep it near the stove for any unforeseen mishaps. In the case of a grease fire, first turn off the heat, if possible, and try to cover the fire with a pan lid. Be careful not to let the hot grease splatter you. Also keep a box or two in your garage and inside your car to quickly extinguish any mechanical or car-interior fires. Bicarbonate of soda will also snuff out electrical fires and flames on clothing, wood, upholstery and carpets.

RR6 Get stains off piano keys
That old upright may still sound great, but those yellowed keys definitely hit a sour note. Remove age stains by mixing a solution of 1/4 cup of bicarbonate of soda in one litre of warm water. Apply to each key with a dampened cloth (you can place a thin piece of cardboard between the keys to avoid seepage). Wipe again with a cloth dampened with plain water, then buff dry with a clean cloth.

RR7 Remove musty smells from books
If books that have just been taken out of storage have a musty odour, place each one in a small brown paper bag with two tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda. Don't shake the bag, just tie it up and let it sit in a dry place for about a week. When you open the bag, shake remaining powder off the books and the smell should be gone.

RR8 Deodorise rugs and carpets
How's this for a simple way to freshen up your carpets or rugs? Lightly sprinkle them with bicarbonate of soda, let it settle for about 15 minutes, then vacuum it up.

RR9 Polish silver, and gold jewellery
To remove built-up tarnish from your silver, make a thick paste with 1/4 cup of bicarbonate of soda and two tablespoons of water. Apply with a damp sponge and gently rub, rinse and buff dry. To polish gold jewellery, cover with a light coating of bicarbonate of soda, pour a bit of vinegar over it and rinse clean. Be warned though: don't use this technique with jewellery containing pearls or gemstones, as bicarbonate of soda could damage their finish and loosen the glue.

RR10 Tidy up your toilet bowl
Instead of using chemicals to clean your toilet bowl, just pour half a box of bicarbonate of soda into the cistern once a month. Leave overnight. This cleans both the cistern and the bowl. You can also pour several tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda directly into a toilet bowl and scrub it on any stains. Wait a few minutes, then flush away the stains.

All these tips - and hundreds more to save money and time - can be found in Extraordinary Uses for Ordinary Things, Reader's Digest, RRP $49.98. To order visit www.healthsmart or call 1300 300 030.

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